Module 8

The relevance of Language for Mathematics Education



This module is part of:
  • Mathematics and Science Subject dimension: (inter)cultural perspectives on the subjects themselves.
General overview and aim

In this module student-teachers in ITE (initial teacher education) at lower secondary level are introduced to relevance of language in mathematics education and it provides them with background and tools to teach mathematics in a language-oriented (or language-sensitive) way.


For students of all backgrounds (both mono-lingual and multilingual students) it is important to develop the subject-specific (academic) language of mathematics. This language is needed for conceptual understanding and ‘meaning-making’ in mathematics. The development of subject-specific language can be facilitated by adopting a language-sensitive approach to mathematics. Although multilingual students will encounter other and maybe more problems than monolingual students, this approach is aimed to benefit all students in developing their mathematical proficiency.

The aim of this module is twofold:

  1. To make student- teachers aware of the relevance of language for learning (and teaching) mathematics.
  2. To provide them with background theory, resources, skills and tools to support their student’s development of relevant academic language, and thus equip them to enhance mathematics learning in classrooms where students’ levels and background in academic language proficiency may differ.
Relevant topics

In this module the following topics will be addressed:

  • The distinction between ‘everyday’ language, general academic language and the specific language of mathematics.
  • Some background and characteristics of language-sensitive mathematics teaching.
  • The relevance of interaction, contexts and language-support for the learning of (the language of) mathematics;
  • Tools to analyse teaching materials and classroom interaction (scaffolding) on the use and support of language in mathematics teaching.
  • Tools and activities to support future teachers in designing language sensitive lessons and activities.
Learning Outcomes

Through this module prospective teacher will be able to:

  • Understand difficulties student face with language in mathematics (especially multilingual students);
  • Become aware of the role and relevance of language in mathematics education (everyday language, general school language and subject-specific language of mathematics);
  • Develop knowledge about the approach of language-sensitive mathematics teaching and its tools;
  • Analyze language in classroom materials and teaching practice;
  • Learn to value the role of various representations and visualizations as a bridge for understanding and developing linguistic skills in mathematics education:
  • Learn to know and use scaffolding strategies to support students in language-sensitive mathematics lessons;
  • Design classroom activities that support students’ language proficiency as well as their mathematical understanding.
Module (Teacher)

pdf    docx

Worksheets (Students)

pdf    docx

Lecture Presentation

pptx (unzip)


Materials also available in other languages: Dutch, Slovensky

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